You’re probably expecting Launcelot to wake up, discover Lionel is missing, track him down, slay Turquine, and free everybody, right? I know I would be expecting that. This story takes a weird turn, though. Let’s turn our attention back to Launcelot, last seen taking a nap. More or less simultaneous with Ector’s misadventure last chapter, Launcelot sleeps under an apple tree while a foursome of ladies come riding up the road.
This is a classy, high-end foursome; they don’t go riding out at midday without some sun protection, so spread out around them there’s a group of knights with lances, and a big green silk sheet is tied to the knights’ lances, and the knights hold the lances up, making a portable sunshade for the ladies.
And furthermore this is not just any fourseome of classy ladies, this is, in actuality, Queen Morgan le Fay and her golf buddies. We join their conversation, already in progress.
“…and you’re expected to just take it. Reason number three hundred and six that it’s terrible to be a woman in Arthurian England, odds are super high you won’t even rate a name. Reason number three hundred and seven that it’s terrible to be a woman in Arthurian England, embroidery is stupid and boring.”
“Hey now, Morgan, I like embroidery.”
“Because you’re stupid and boring. Reason number three hundred and eight that it’s terrible to be a woman in Arthurian England, you aren’t allowed to carry a sword. Reason number three hundred and nine…”
“Morgan, hold on, who is that?” One of Morgan’s friends points at the prone snoring figure under the apple tree.
Morgan squints and points. “Holy… that’s Sir Launcelot!”
“Is it? It is!”
“What’s he doing out here?”
“Who cares? I’m going to seduce him!”
“Hey, yeah! God only knows my life is crazy-bigtime unstimulating, seducing Launcelot sounds great!”
“Well, we can’t all seduce him at once –”
“Let’s mud-wrestle for him! Or we could lingere-fight?”
“What? No,” says Morgan le Fay. “We’re not doing that. First things first.” Morgan waves her hands and does a little magic, casting deeper slumber on Launcelot. “Okay, he’ll be out for a good six hours. Men, carry him back to my castle! We’ll figure out who sleeps with him once we get there.”
Back at Morgan’s castle (which, Malory helpfully tells us, is called Castle Chariot), Morgan and her friends the Queen of Northgalis, the Queen of Eastland, and the Queen of the Out Islands all talk it over. They eventually agree that it should be Launcelot’s choice which of them gets to take him on as a lover; otherwise his heart might not be in it and that wouldn’t be as much fun.
In the morning, Launcelot wakes up, and he’s all, where am I and why am I here instead of under an apple tree like when I fell asleep?
“Silly Launcelot,” says Morgan. “Is this your first strange adventure? This is how they always go, you’re all the time falling asleep in once place and waking up in another.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Oh, I know more than your name. I know you’re King Ban’s son, the Man from (and prince of) Benwick, Knight of the Round Table, and longtime secret lover of Guenever –”
Launcelot objects. “Not her secret lover! We’re completely chaste! Emotional intimacy only, no physical intimacy!”
“Mmm-hmm. Anyway, that’s all over now. I’m Morgan le Fay, Queen of Gore, you may have heard of me? And these are my three friends, who are also queens. We’ve decided you can be the lover of one of us. We want physical intimacy.”
“And emotional intimacy!” interjects the Queen of Northgalis.
“Physical and emotional intimacy both,” clarifies the Queen of Eastland.
“Yeah, that’s why we’re letting you pick,” says the Queen of the Out Islands, because she wants a line of her own, too, if the other queens get one.
Launcelot is having none of it, though. “And if I refuse?”
“Aw, come on, be a sport!” Morgan and her friends really want Launcelot to go along with this of his own will. “I suppose we’d keep you prisoner until you died of grief or something. But Launcelot, I don’t want to do that, I just want you to do for me what you’ve been doing for Guenever…”
“Whoa! Okay, first off, you’re a bunch of witches and I choose none of you, I’ll just be a prisoner until I die. Secondly, and this is the big one, I’ve got to insist you quit slandering Dame Guenever like that! She’s good and pure and chaste and perfect and sweet and wonderful!”
“Whatever. I didn’t come here to badmouth Guenever. I like Guenever. But just to be clear, you’re choosing isolation and eventual death over sex?”
“Well, we’ll see how you feel in a week or two,” snaps Morgan. She and her lady-friends stomp out. Morgan doesn’t like not getting her way.